Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Saturn 3 (1980) - Movie Review - 8/10

A Forgotten Gem

Saturn 3 is an often over-looked minor sci-fi gem. It's by no means perfect, but there's a lot to enjoy. In many ways, it initially comes over as a robotic take on Alien. This is not inaccurate, but it's a small part of it. What we have in Saturn 3 is a wide selection of themes. Love hidden away in a far-flung corner of a permissive, hedonistic society. The evils of simple lust, jealousy and envy. How man's creations can turn on him, totally dependant on how we create them, and what parts of ourselves we allow them to emulate. It's not just about the 'robot-gone-bad' scenario. Hector is a villain, only because of the worst parts of humanity that he becomes imbued with. On top of that, we have a solid, dark adventure. In fact, you'll see some scenes that look to have directly influenced James' Cameron's 'Aliens', notably the hiding-under-the-floor scene, amongst others.

Saturn 3 has some wonderful production design for the interior sets and props. Hector is a fantastic fusion of ideas. Hulking body, twisted and exposed muscle and vein-like wiring, and a set of eyes that perfectly undermine your expectations to create something rather more menacing. You expect a large, threatening head on that body. Instead you get only two searching eyes. The interior of the outpost is excellently realised. It doesn't go for the obvious route, emulating either Alien or 2001, but is somewhere between. It's own take on those. There are occasionally some obvious 70s influences, making it less timeless than a film like Alien, but they're not detrimental to the over-all film.

Unfortunately, it is badly let down by some fairly dreadful model effects, for which there was little excuse in the wake of Star Wars and Alien. Though you do get the impression this is due to budget cuts at the end of production. The design of the ships, etc, is excellent. It is simply the effects themselves that clearly lacked time and money.

To top it all off, Saturn 3 has an outstanding score by Elmer Bernstein. It is full of atmosphere, sometimes full of awe and grandeur, while at others almost demonic in its themes for Hector.

Though admittedly nobody was going to win an Oscar, Kirk Douglas delivers a solid performance, while Farrah Fawcett is functional and a suitably attractive damsel in distress. Harvey Keitel gives a fair performance as Benson, and oddly enough, despite his current stature, I feel he is more menacing with his voice dubbed by Roy Dotrice (Edited well enough, that if you didn't know Keitel, you wouldn't be able to tell). There's a lot to enjoy in Saturn 3. It's full of ideas and stands up surprisingly well (Excluding some model effects). It's one of those films where you feel, with just a little more effort, really could have been a sci-fi classic. As it stands, it's still an under-rated and excellent film.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Great review, Duncan! Nicely-written, well-balanced. You might be interested in a new site I've recently set up devoted to the making of Saturn 3.


    Nice to know I'm not alone in my appreciation for this movie.